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Coleman’s Christmas crunch; it’s make or break for the Sunderland squad this festive season

Can Chris Coleman’s men spread cheer among their fellow Mackems during this congested Christmas calendar?

Sunderland v Watford - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The festive period is always a particularly special time for any football fan. It is the one time of year (barring Easter, depending on what league your side is in) where a plethora of matches come within days of each other.

For Sunderland, however, the four games in nine days from December into January will be vital - it is quite literally make or break.

One the one hand, we have a squad plagued with injuries and even some of those who are fit right now have had their issues with fitness in the not too distant past.

Take John O’Shea, Marc Wilson and Billy Jones. Two of the three appeared in the 0-0 draw at Wolves on Saturday. However, we have very little cover in defensive positions, particularly at centre-back, meaning that if any of these players pick up a knock, they could miss a number of games.

This is true throughout the squad, and thus this period is crucial. The intensity of the fixture list means that what would ordinarily be a rather innocuous injury could cause a player to miss two or even three matches going into the New Year.

On the other hand, the upcoming jam-packed schedule could be beneficial for our squad, in order to gain some much-needed stability and really get the players used to Coleman’s tactical switch.

Bearing in mind, this hopefulness is fueled by a glimmer of pride. Pride which was restored at Molineux on Saturday as we battled for a much-deserved point - a performance which made me smile just that bit more than normal at five o’clock on a Saturday afternoon.

Sunderland v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images,

It was encouraging that after we lost a player for being so incredibly stupid, we dug deep and held out.

That is the kind of character we need, the four games quick on the bounce will provide Coleman with the chance to rally his players and give them the opportunity to repeat the hard-working performance we now know they are capable of producing.

If we can re-kindle that defensive solidity and obtain a solid run of results, then who knows how many points we could pick up going into 2018?

In a way, we picked a good time to have a change of management.

The end of November meant that at least the new boss would have a few weeks to get to know his players before the mid-season mayhem of late December got into full swing, while also shrewdly being able to look ahead to the January transfer window.

There has definitely been an improvement in our performances under Coleman’s regime already, barring the visit of Reading, which could be a turning point. This has meant that fans can look ahead to Christmas and New Year with some optimism. Here’s hoping that this upcoming festive season will be one for us to be jolly.